(Re)producing horse shit
I’ve been reading an article called ‘Canadian Women and the (Re)Production of Women in Afghanistan.’ I do not like it.
From the abstract, so that you can get the big picture:
the prominent group Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan (CW4WAfghan), this
paper looks at the role its advocacy assumes in the context of the “War on Terror”. In
Canada as in the United States, government agencies have justified the military invasion
of Afghanistan by revitalizing the oppressed Muslim woman as a medium through which
narratives of East versus West are performed. While CW4WAfghan attempt to challenge
dominant narratives of Afghan women, they ultimately reinforce and naturalize the
Orientalist logic on which the War on Terror operates, even helping to disseminate it
through the Canadian school system. Drawing on post-colonial feminist theory, this
paper highlights the implications of CW4WAfghan’s Orientalist discourse on women’s
rights, and tackles the difficult question of how feminists can show solidarity with
Afghan women without adhering to the oppressive narratives that permeate today’s
Then from the main body:
Building on Krista Hunt’s analysis of feminist
complicity in the War on Terror (Hunt 2006), this essay draws attention to Canadian feminists’ role in (re)producing neo-imperialist narratives of Afghan women. Focusing specifically on the NGO Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan (CW4WAfghan),
it shows how their use of feminist rhetoric and personal first-hand narratives, together
with national narratives of Canada as a custodian of human rights, add to the productive
power of the Orientalist tropes they invoke.
If within Canada, constructions of Afghan women remain one of the most
powerful means by which knowledge about the “War on Terror” is produced,
CW4WAfghan are among the most active and powerful disseminators of such
knowledge. CW4WAfghan express the importance of this role in their twofold mandate:
1) to raise awareness in Canada of the need to secure and protect human rights
and opportunities for Afghan women and, 2) to support the empowerment
efforts of Afghan women in education, health care and skills development
By explicitly focusing on how the second half of this mandate is pursued, my aim is not
to discredit what CW4WAfghan may have accomplished in Afghanistan, but rather, to
see how this work might be undemiined by becoming part of the War on Terror’s neo-
imperialist project of knowledge construction.
And so she does. She wants to get her Master’s degree, so she proceeds with her project of saying invidious things about an NGO working for Afghan women’s rights, for another forty pages. She leans heavily on Foucault and Said, she talks much of knowledge-power and Orientalism, and she ploughs her academic furrow. Meanwhile the women who work for CW4WAfghan do that. I know which I admire.
I might give you more extracts later. It’s replete with interesting items. The sad part is it was published in the Cambridge Review of International Affairs.